David Anderson, Ph.D. has spent his adult life studying how people learn new motor skills and how those movements affect the brain. As a Professor of Kinesiology and Director of the Marian Wright Edelman Institute for the Study of Children, Youth and Families at San Francisco State University, Dr. Anderson was immediately intrigued by the Otteroo. He discovered the product with a colleague at University of California Berkeley with whom he is currently studying the dramatic changes in psychological functioning that occur after infants start to crawl and walk. They came on board as advisors to the Otteroo company shortly thereafter.
As an advisor to Otteroo, Dr. Anderson helps Founder Tiffany Chiu and her team better understand the potential benefits and uses of their product, with respect to motor development and psychological development. He is also helping the team come up with ways to test the product to see if the Otteroo can facilitate motor and psychological development.
What was your first impression of the Otteroo?
I was fascinated by it. I had never seen anything like it before. All of the sudden, there were these cute, little babies who struggle to move on the ground, floating and moving around the pool on their own, and I thought, 'Wow! This is pretty amazing.'
Why did you decide to come on board as an advisor?
I firmly believe that motor development and psychological development are closely linked. If you can accelerate the motor development process you will also accelerate the development of psychological skills too. So, I'm intrigued that the Otteroo has that potential to facilitate both aspects of development all while the baby is having fun in the water and enjoying his or her newly found freedom to move.
How will the Otteroo impact your research?
Most of the research that we do in our lab here at both San Francisco State University and the Infant Studies Center at Berkeley is focused on the acquisition of mobility. When babies become mobile, they undergo a psychological revolution. With Otteroo, babies can start moving around independently in the water well before they could ever do so on land. So naturally, the first thing that popped into my head after seeing that was, 'How might this be affecting the baby developmentally?' They're getting to access and acquire these experiences related to moving so much earlier than they otherwise would.
Why are you excited about seeing what kind of effect the Otteroo will have on infants’ motor development?
One of the biggest limitations that we face when working with babies is that the training of the prerequisite skills that feed into locomotion takes considerable time. The baby has to develop strength, coordination, endurance, and balance before they can move independently. But when you put the baby in the water, you take away the constraint of gravity and give the baby the opportunity to move in a much more effortless way that’s just not possible on land. They can explore their movements and play. They can develop skills potentially much earlier just because you’ve given them that freedom to move. That’s one of the most intriguing aspects of Otteroo from my perspective.
The big question for me is: When you take away that gravitational constraint and the baby can roam freely, what sorts of impact will that have on their motor development and psychological development? I would predict that that ability to explore and move freely is going to have a pretty huge impact on motor and development in a positive way.
What kind of impact do you think the Otteroo will have on infants with disabilities?
We know that the earlier you start interventions for children with physical disabilities, the more likely those interventions are going to be effective. So, if you have a baby with a physical impairment that will likely delay his or her acquisition of sitting up, crawling or walking, the earlier you can start an intervention, the better. Currently, interventions must wait until infants have sufficient strength to at least partially support their own body weight before they can begin. The Otteroo gives infants the opportunity to explore and develop their movements in an environment that is much easier on the muscles and joints and they can begin their exploration as early as 8 weeks of age. Consequently, an intervention with the Otteroo could potentially start much earlier than a traditional intervention.